Mathew Alexander on torture as a recruitment and radicalisation tool

Air Force interrogator Matthew Alexander has a new book out Kill or Capture: How a Special Operations Task Force Took Down a Notorious Al Qaeda Terrorist. In an interview with Scott Horton he offers some of his thoughts on how Egypt’s brutal crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood strenghtened the extremist views of many Al Qaeda leaders.

Al Qaeda’s beginnings trace back to the prisons of Egypt and Mubarak’s persecution of the Muslim Brotherhood. Sayyid Qutb, whose writings have inspired many Al Qaeda leaders including Osama bin Laden, was imprisoned for years and witnessed and experienced torture that convinced him that violent extremism is a legitimate response to authoritarian dictatorships. As I saw in Iraq, torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay were the number one reasons foreign fighters gave for coming there to fight. This was especially true because of the nature of the torture, which often included sexual, cultural, and religious humiliation. Anyone who says torture works is not looking at the long-term ramifications.

The recent successful revolution in Egypt started as a result of the torture of a regular citizen who planned to expose police corruption. Twenty-eight-year-old Egyptian blogger Khaled Said was taken by the police from an Internet café in Alexandria and beaten to death in a residential building as witnessed by several citizens. The death of Said became symbolic of the routine and widespread use of torture by Hosni Mubarak’s regime.

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